Hold Hands And Listen [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

These words, posed as polar opposites, come from the world of relationship advice. The recommendation is to establish clarity. Before you get into trouble, define whether your mate’s need is to be heard or to hear advice, to receive solace or solutions. Offering a solution when the need is solace is not recommended. Knowing my snap-dedication to solving-her-every-need, Kerri will often cut me off at the pass with, “I just need you to listen.” My lending-an-ear is often the only thing she really needs.

I’ve always been a good listener but it is only recently that I’ve discovered that I cannot solve anything for anyone. I cannot spare anyone the necessity of walking through their life lessons. The solving is not mine to do. The discoveries are not mine to make. This comes as a great awakening to my third-child-in-the-family-peacekeeper-identity. It also comes as a great relief. Peacekeeping, as a role assignment, is impossible. It’s akin to herding cats. It’s best to let each cat find peace in its own way. In sitting still, in surrendering the impossible task, my peace, like a magic castle, appeared.

A few years ago, a friend, sensitive to Kerri’s grief, offered her this truism-nugget: there’s only one way to go through it and that is to go through it. Trying to spare or minimize her grief would be to rob her of the depths of her love. Feel the depths. Meet the monster that lives there. Emerge transformed or at least informed. It is how we come to fully know ourselves.

We are learning to walk together with no need to solve. I am learning to hold hands and listen. The walking together, the holding of hands, is essential. The words I spin around our challenges are rarely meaningful and never as necessary as attending to the simple essential of quiet presence.

read Kerri’s blog post about COMFORT OR SOLUTIONS

Pause And Listen [on KS Friday]

A pause. Unspecified length. Fermata. It reads like poetry. I, a consummate non-musician, am learning and loving new musical terms.

We live in a world of noise. Too much noise. Too much talking. Too many screamers competing for our shrinking attention spans.

So much noise blocks access to the still small voice, the soul voice. That whisper-voice of inner truth never shouts. It is very hard to hear things-of-depth in a world so enamored with the superficial, so consumed by the marketing-moment. The breaking news. The voguish sale. The hip. The hop. The latest tweet. The newest outrage. Tik-Tok, Facebook, Instagram, spin-your-noggin-round-and-round.

This morning I’ve heard and read a thought surfing atop all the noise-feeds: we have to find a shared truth. Without it, we will enter the ranks of the failed states, if we are not there already.

Standing on the streets shouting at each other is guaranteed to further gape-our-void. Running deeper into fact-less-“news”-bubbles that spit blather 24/7 will send us deeper and deeper into banana-republic-status.

Our hope of unity lies in the fermata. The pause of unspecified length. Quiet.

It is from the silence that we might recognize that shared truth never pops out of its hole in the middle of a street fight. Truth stays clear of cacophony. It is in the silence that we have a slight prayer of hearing some truth.* We’ll know when we’re ready to share truth again when, out of the shared silence, we begin our conversation with some form of this simple question: “What did you hear?”

[*this highly idealistic and slightly naive thought assumes the restoration of respect for facts & science in all parties, a shared baseline for all inner-listeners]

read Kerri’s blog post on FERMATA

find all of Kerri’s albums on iTunes

Listen To The Hatter [on Flawed Wednesday]

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“I don’t think…”

“Then you shouldn’t talk!” said the Hatter

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

The entire world is down the rabbit hole though, we citizens of the U.S.A., have fallen into a deeper darker hole. We’ve found a way-out-wacky cast of characters at the helm that challenge in strangeness the inhabitants of Wonderland. Truth, as it turns out, is much stranger than fiction.

Sometimes out of the mouth of madness comes a whisper of truth. If you do not first think, you should probably not talk. The Hatter’s advice is sage.

For kicks, I asked the mystic Google this question: What did Alice learn in Wonderland? It’s been a few years since I held her hand and went down the rabbit hole.

Alice learned that bullies are really two-dimensional and ultimately vapid. The pandemic is exposing our very own Queen of Hearts, a man who, like the Queen, gets his excitement from belittling others. Diminishing others is really the only card in a bully’s  deck. Here we are.

Alice learned that a bully is powerless without the support of minions. So, to garner support, a healthy cadre of minions must also agree to be flat and loud but remain thought-free. As it turns out, minions are powerless without a bully. It’s a loop. Well. Here we are.

The Caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” She has no answer. She finds herself in a wholly strange world. The rules of life as she understands them no longer apply.  It is madness everywhere she looks. Yup. Here we are.

Her experiences with the madness expose who she is. That is my favorite of Alice’s lessons. Our madness is also exposing many things about us. It’s revealed the bully. It has called forward the courageous. It has uncovered the minions. It lays bare the deep cracks in our foundation. And, perhaps, to take some advice from the Hatter, since the bully and his crew has undermined science, morality, ethic, facts, jurisprudence, and is taking partisan bites from the constitution, it might be time for us to start thinking.

“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.

“I won’t,” said Alice.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about Mouth Shut

 

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Heed The Thwack [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

Have a Drink

It occurs to me now that Marilyn J. was thwacking me on the back of the head. In her comment about my post, AGREE TO DISAGREE, she mirrored back to me something I have taught: without an antagonist there is no story. Without an obstacle there is nothing to drive the story forward. Marilyn was reminding me of two things. First,  the antagonists in my story were giving me fuel for forward movement. Second, that in my post, I was pushing against what I don’t like. She was reminding me that productive movement is toward what I wish to create rather than resisting what I do not want.

We have a new phrase in our lexicon though it feels ancient: social distancing. In thinking about what Marilyn wrote to me I have decided the real social distancing that we are experiencing has less to do with stay at home orders or six feet of space or wearing masks; it is about the distance between the world inhabited by the red and the world inhabited by the blue. They are, I believe, no longer merely divided, they are distinctly separate realities. What makes sense in one reality looks like utter nonsense in the other.

I just took a dive into quotes by E.O. Wilson. He wrote something about brilliant enemies and I wanted to find it: “Without a trace of irony I can say that I have been blessed with brilliant enemies. I owe them a great debt, because they redoubled my energies and drove me in new directions.”

This is point of Marilyn’s head thwack. Redouble your energies. There is no denying that my daily disbelief at the malignant narcissist and his propaganda machine is driving me in new and as yet unknown directions. It has filled me with fear for my family and friends. It is also filling me with energy and it is up to me to live what I believe and use my redoubled energy to move toward what I desire to create rather than become “the thing hate:” an angry absolutist incapable of listening. A resister. An energy eddy.

Or, as Saul-the-Tai-Chi-Master so often reminded me, “Look beyond the obstacle to the field of possibilities.” That is where all of life is truly found.

[note: if you want to feel good about humanity or just need some perspective in the time of pandemic, Google quotes by E.O. Wilson. Or, better yet, since we are in this for a while read one of his books].

 

read Kerri’s blog post on this NOT SO FLAWED WEDNESDAY

 

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Decide To See [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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When you come to our house, pay attention to the small things. You will find many, many, many hearts. Heart shaped rocks, heart shaped leaves, shells that are the shape of a heart. This is not an accident. It’s also not a collection of “things” – like a collection of shot glasses or figurines. No, it is altogether different.

Kerri looks for hearts. Often on our walks she will gasp, pull out her camera and take a picture. I know that she has seen another heart. Usually, she engages with it and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and it comes home with us.

To be clear: she doesn’t buy hearts from the store. She is not a collector of heart shapes. Kerri looks for hearts. When we are out in public she will gasp and move toward someone, striking up a conversation. Soon there is laughter; always there is a story. Usually, she engages with the heart and walks on. Sometimes she picks up the heart and  it is in our life forever.

Since seeing the recent Mr. Rogers movie, we’ve been talking a lot about intentional thinking, about focus placement. We’ve been talking about what we look for when we go out into the world – what we decide to see. Everyone decides what they see but very few people know that they have that decision. Everyone decides what they think but very few people know that they have that decision. It’s what made Mr. Rogers so special. He knew he  had decisions and he talked about it with children. Children are capable of listening.

It’s very easy to see the gunk. The dark is an easy choice; fear makes it so. It takes some intention to see the light.  Hearts are always present but they require some attention and resolve to see. They ask that we look beyond the superficial gunk to see the heart-substance. That’s why Kerri picks them up and plants them around our home. It’s a practice. She’s built a practice of seeing the hearts. She goes into each day looking for the hearts.

It turns out that hearts are everywhere. You can see them, too, if you decide to see them.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HEARTS

 

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Make A Small Gesture [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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We’ve built our towering life together on the small gesture. Coffee in bed. A note stashed in a suitcase to be found when far away from home. We hold hands everywhere we go. When getting ready for bed, the first one in the bathroom always puts toothpaste on both brushes. Little kindnesses. The smallest of signals and courtesies that say nothing more and nothing less than, “You matter most of all.”

Looking for the grand plan that will change the world or, better, trying to be the grand plan, often blinds us to the real necessity of the moment. We look for the mountain that needs to be moved and miss the hand that needs to be held.

My younger, revolutionary self screams, “WHAT?! WE NEED TO PUSH BACK! WE NEED TO FIGHT THE SYSTEM!! WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WORLD!!! THIS SMALL-MOMENT STUFF IS THE CRAP-THINKING OF AN OLD PERSON! WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!!!!

I’ve been more changed by a smile from across the room than by all the agitation that I’ve engendered across the span of my life. I have initiated more change by holding my tongue than by wagging it. Listening, I’ve learned, is a most powerful small gesture.

If I am old (I don’t feel old), if I have learned anything, then I have learned that real love is not noisy or flashy or grand. It is quiet. It steps behind you when you are frightened, puts its hand on your back and whispers, “I’ve made you a toothbrush.”

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SMALL GESTURES

 

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Use Both Ears [On Merely A Thought Monday]

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When I was young and upset about an issue I can no longer remember, Tom tempered me with this question: “Is this the hill you want to die on?”

Another time, still young, I was very angry, and on a warm spring day in the central valley, Arnie sat with me on the grass and listened to my tale of woe. I wanted to write a letter expressing my discontent. He nodded and, in his gentle way, taught me that sometimes it is sometimes necessary to express yourself because you need to express yourself and for no other reason: “Write it because you need to say it, not because they need to hear it,” he said. This morning, as I write this, I can’t for the life of me remember what made me so angry.

Quinn taught me that there are seven billion people with me on this earth and not a single one cares about what I look like or what I think. Like me, they are invested in what they look like, what they think.

They do care, however, that I listen. Isn’t it the case so often in this life that the opposite of what we believe is actually where the power lives? Aren’t we under siege in a raging war of opinions, a constant bombardment of competing points-of-view? So many mouths and not a single ear in the mix.

For the life of me, I can’t remember what made me so angry on those days so long ago. I can’t remember the hill I chose not to die on. What seemed so important was, in truth, not even worth remembering. I do, thankfully, remember the sage advice of so many mentors, teachers and friends. I’m so grateful that in the midst of my red hot self-righteousness, I was capable of listening.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about EARS AND MOUTHS

 

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Save Your Nickel [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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We walk on snowy trails through the woods because it is quiet. I retreat to my studio to work because it is quiet. It inspires quiet. Quiet evokes quiet.

Scrolling through her news app, Kerri said, “Everyone in the world is angry.” It certainly seems that way, especially if the news is the lens through which the world is defined. Headlines shout. The advertisements flash and disrupt.  Tom used to say that watching television, plugging into the news-of-the-day, reminded him of his childhood. The circus would come to town. Carnival barkers and bright signs, lots of noise and distractions. The one sure moneymaker, the tent everyone clamored to get into, lining up to pay their shiny nickel, was the freak show. Two headed cows in jars of formaldehyde. Things that gross us out or make us mad. “Nowadays, they call it reality television,” he’d say, shaking his head. “Or the news. It’s a lot of noise.”

Here’s a simple truth: conversation is impossible in too much noise. People shouting to be heard. A room full of shouting people actually makes listening more difficult and conversing impossible. It’s a feedback loop. Noise evokes noise. And, noise isolates. It is a perfect recipe for being alone together.

The Five20 is a little bar at the Stagecoach Inn in Cedarburg.  Their tagline, “Where you can actually hear your conversation” is refreshingly accurate and seems a throwback to another era. People valuing conversation; a place, a space, intended to facilitate interaction sans noise. Our group, 10 people strong, the up-north-gang, began and ended our yearly trek to Winterfest there. Sitting at the far end of the long table, I could hear every word spoken at the other end. Even when the bar was packed.  And, the best part, today, I can’t tell you what we talked about – the simple stuff  of life – but I can tell you that we laughed and shared and left the Five20 full of friendship, warmed by sharing rather than exhausted from shouting.

As Tom would have said, “Save your nickel.” Sometimes the thing you seek is not in the tent amidst the noise but outside, far from the circus.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about WHERE YOU CAN ACTUALLY HEAR

 

 

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Play The Same Stuff [on Merely A Thought Monday]

string bass with frame copy“If you are a chef, not matter how good a chef you are, it’s not good cooking for yourself; the joy is in cooking for others – it’s the same with music.” ~will.i.am

I lived most of my life believing I didn’t have a musical bone in my body. I was convinced that I had a tin ear. I was afraid to sing. I carried a guitar (I named her Magnolia) with me for years – a gesture of hopefulness amidst my absolute commitment to my ineptitude – and finally gave it away to someone who could play it. An instrument needs to be played and I felt I was being selfish holding onto a guitar that I would never play. Oh, how I wish I had Magnolia today.

I didn’t just make up my fear of music. I had plenty of reinforcement, lots of shaming, before I committed to a story of I CAN’T. Over time, with more and more horror experiences, my story solidified into I WON’T. Ever. Close the door. Kill the desire.

When I met Kerri – a consummate musician – I told her this: “You have to know two things about me. I don’t sing & I don’t pray.” A few months later we were driving back roads in Georgia, windows rolled down, a James Taylor CD blaring, Kerri singing at the top of her lungs, I thought it was safe to sing along. She’d never hear me. But, she did. She burst into tears and pulled the car off the road. I shook like a leaf but we sang together and it was grand.

It took her about 15 minutes to identify my obstacle. I had to relearn how to hear. That’s it. It took a few months and a willingness to mightily miss notes and my scary story of CAN’T crumbled. I learned how to feel the sound. The music was there all along.

Here’s the magic for a beginner like me: when I am rehearsing with the ukulele band or singing in the choir, I am capable of so much more than when I am practicing by myself. Playing the same stuff elevates everyone. It’s as if we transcend ourselves. Actually, we do transcend ourselves. We sync up and the energy uplifts everyone. Even me. Especially me, a toddler in knowing that I CAN.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about PLAYING THE SAME STUFF

 

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Look Close-In [on DR Thursday]

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Georgia O’Keeffe was a master painter of paradox. Her paintings open the expansive universe by focusing close in, approaching the mystical, the sensual through the minute. She expressed so much through minimal strokes. I suspect her paintings are an expression of how she lived. Standing still in the arroyo, listening. Moving inward to reach the outer spaces.

I am a artist of a by-gone century. While I appreciate the digital world (you would not be reading this without it), I love the visceral, the deep inner driver, the instinctual. I am tactile. I am fed by the feel of the brush moving across the canvas, the smell and splash of the paint, the dance.  A world of possibilities and paths open when mistakes are not easily erased. Kerri calls this analog.

This is a morsel, a close-in crop of my painting, Earth Interrupted VII. Look closely and you will see the meeting ground of the methodical and the spontaneous, the controlled and the improvisational. I am learning from looking close-in. I see forces merged that used to be at odds, now good dance partners. Compliments. I, too, am learning to stand still, not in the arroyo but on the shores of Lake Michigan. Visceral. Listening. Moving inward in the hope of reaching the outer spaces.

read Kerri’s post about this MORSEL

 

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earth interrupted VII/morsel ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood